20 Things Flight Attendants Are Never Allowed to Do
Want a first class upgrade? Don't ask your flight attendant.
With an average of 44,000 flights departing around the world each day and 2.7 million passengers taking to the sky, air travel is as routine to many people as getting behind the wheel. However, the professionals keeping those folks orderly and entertained at cruising altitude are doing more than just passing out peanuts and demonstrating safety information. In fact, there are countless things your flight attendant does that likely go unnoticed to the layman.
Stranger still are all the things you'll never catch flight crew doing on a plane. From whether or not you'll ever see a flight attendant out of uniform to how many of those mini bottles they'll actually serve you, these things flight attendants are never allowed to do might surprise even the most intrepid travelers.
They can't let you drink that booze you brought onboard.
Unfortunately, that bottle of rum you bought in duty-free can't be cracked open when you're on the plane. And yes, flight attendants will stop you. "If you bring any booze on board, it can't be opened. If you have any in a bag, say a duty free bag or it's up in your bin, that's fine, but you can't drink it. Otherwise, they can get super-drunk and we're not taking care of them," says Susan McCord, a flight attendant for 25 years.
They can't let you see them out of uniform.
Though many of the strict requirements about flight attendants' grooming habits have been lifted in recent years, that doesn't mean you'll spot them out of the uniform on the flight. According to McCord, while some flight attendants will change into their uniforms on the plane pre-flight, interacting with customers without a uniform on is definitely frowned upon.
They can't use all the medical equipment on board.
While most flight attendants are CPR certified and can use a defibrillator, some flights have special medical tools that flight attendants can't actually touch. "There's a physicians' kit that the in-charge has a key to, but that's something only a nurse and doctor with credentials can get us to open up," McCord says.
They can't keep serving you when you've had enough.
It doesn't matter if you're in economy of first class—if you've had too much to drink, your flight attendant can't give you more. "If you can tell that they're getting [drunk], you can cut them off at any time," McCord says. "They put a lot of responsibility on us not to over-serve."
They can't get you an upgrade.
Being nice to your flight attendant will get you far, but it won't get you a seat in first class. "We don't do the upgrading," says McCord. "It's not up to us to change somebody's seat or upgrade them."
They can't give your kid a free seat.
Sorry, your toddler doesn't automatically get a seat on the plane just because you brought them on. While kids under two can usually fly free, they'll have to sit on your lap. "People think that when they bring a child on under two, that they automatically get a seat for their child. They don't," says McCord.
They can't take your tip.
Save your extra cash for when you land; it's unlikely your flight attendant will be allowed to take it. "They don't want you to take tips. Everything's included in the airfare. They don't want people to feel like they have to tip, because it's our job," McCord says.
They can't have a drink with you.
And don't assume your flight attendant is going to sit down to a cocktail alongside you. According to former flight attendant Steffanie Rivers, author of the Do's and Don'ts of Flying: A Flight Attendant's Guide to Airline Travel Secrets, drinking on duty is a major no-no. "We're not supposed to drink the liquor that we serve people," she says.
They can't use the airlines for whatever they want.
Being a flight attendant doesn't mean getting an endless supply of free flights for friends. "I'm not supposed to use my access to the flight to transport other people or items," explains Rivers.
They can't make passengers switch seats.
Flight attendants are unlikely to give you a hand if you want to switch seats during a trip. "A lot of people assume we can just get people to move. That's not up to us. On the manifest for the plane, everything like your bag is attached to your seat number," McCord says.
They can't handle your huge suitcase.
If you're bringing on an oversized bag, that's on you and you alone. "A lot of people come on and expect the flight attendant to lift the suitcase. Sometimes, they'll bring on big cases full of books and they want the flight attendants to lift them up. We can assist, but for us to have to put it up for them is not a given," McCord says.
They can't always rest.
Even if you're on an overnight flight, you can't always count on your flight attendant getting a chance to nap. According to Stefany DiManno Ceccato, a corporate flight attendant and founder of DMC Travel Tailor, sleeping isn't always on the table, even for long flights. "I don't feel comfortable sleeping on the plane on overnight flights in case the passenger wakes up and needs service, and also I like to check on the pilots to make sure they are awake and have what they need to promote a safe flight!"
They can't enter the cockpit whenever they want.
Flight attendants can and do enter the cockpit periodically during flights, but they can't barge in whenever they feel like it. "Usually, you have to phone [the pilots] first and let them know you're coming in. Usually, there are codes on the door," explains McCord. "You have someone who holds the curtain when you're going in the door so nobody else can run through."
They can't use those accumulated flights for business travel.
While flight attendants do get lots of free flights, they're not supposed to use them for anything other than personal vacations. For example, if a flight attendant were to book a trip to a conference for a separate part-time job, they could easily get in trouble, according to Rivers.
They can't accept your checks.
If you're buying duty-free items on the plane, don't try to pay with a personal check. McCord confirms that credit and debit cards are becoming the only accepted currency for in-flight purchases.
They can't let you in the galley.
Don't try to hang out in the plane's kitchen. According to McCord, that's sacred space for flight attendants, and there's no room for you to practice yoga or have a chat in there, anyway.
They're not supposed to try to promote their outside interests.
If your flight attendant is trying to get you to buy their essential oils, leggings, or subscribe to their podcast, don't be afraid to make a complaint to the airline. "We're not supposed to solicit customers for our own private interests," Rivers says.
They can't do anything with your personal info.
Your flight attendant may have seen your boarding documents, but don't assume they'll do anything with your information. Rivers says that confidentiality is of the utmost important to flight attendants.
They can't bring anything they want on board.
Despite what movies may have told you, there isn't an open-door policy for flight attendants to bring things on an airplane that couldn't get through security, says Rivers.
They can't do anything to tarnish their reputation in uniform.
McCord says that doing anything other than flight business in uniform is looked down upon. "Whenever you're wearing your uniform, you're supposed to be very respectable," she says. "You're not supposed to be in the bar or sit around in a hotel lobby with drinks if you're in your uniform." For more travel hacks and secrets, check out these 30 Airport Secrets Only Insiders Know.